Wild basil (properly known as clinopodium vulgare) is a herbaceous wildflower in the Lamiaceae family. It is recognisable by its slightly square stem and oval, toothed leaves. As a perennial plant, wild basil lives for longer than two years. It flowers between July and September, when it produces whorls of delicately-coloured flowers at the top of each stem. The flowers range in hue from rich purple to vibrant violet to subtle pink. Each of these flowers has five petals that form a loose bell shape and five exquisite stamens, which add to the wild basil’s unique and remarkable appearance.
This gorgeous purple wild flower is also a UK native species that provides nectar to many of our country’s most beloved pollinators, including bees, butterflies and other flying insects. So the addition of wild basil to a garden is likely to attract these insects, which are sure to bring joy to any nature enthusiast. After all, what garden would be complete without the gentle hum of bees and the flutter of colourful butterflies?
Besides it aesthetic qualities and tendency to attract wildlife, wild basil has many practical applications. It is most well known as a cooking ingredient that can be used to add flavour to a wide variety of dishes. However, it can also be used in the preparation of dyes. Oddly, despite the purple hue of its flowers, the dyes it produces are brown or yellow in colour. It’s also used in traditional remedies, where it has a wide variety of functions, ranging from stimulating heart-rate to clearing airways. It’s even thought to have antibacterial properties; in some countries, it has been used as a traditional ingredient in the treatment of wounds. As if all that wasn’t enough, it can also be used to make a delicious herbal tea.
In the wild, clinopodium vulgare prefers dry, grassy environments with chalky soil. It can often be spotted growing on heaths or in quarries. Like many of the plants we offer on our rolls of MeadowMat, however, it has few requirements and will grow well in practically any garden.
With its beautiful appearance, ability to attract colourful insects and wide spectrum of uses, we recommend wild basil to any gardener who really wants to get the most out of their plants. Not only will it lend an air of delicate charm to your garden, you can also harvest it for use in cooking or in the preparation of homemade dyes.